United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Zachary A. Longsdorf, LONGSDORF LAW FIRM, PLC, for
B. Devos, BLUE EARTH COUNTY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE; and
Matthew Frank, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE, for
Patrick J. Schiltz United States District Judge
Marlow Shelton McDonald was convicted by a jury in state
court for committing a first-degree drug offense, a
second-degree drug offense, a third-degree drug offense, two
firearm offenses, and the offense of fleeing from a peace
officer. State v. McDonald, No. A15-0268,
2016 WL 596222, at *1(Minn.Ct.App. Feb. 16, 2016). After the
jury found that McDonald had five or more prior felony
convictions and that his crimes were committed as part of a
pattern of criminal conduct, the state court sentenced
McDonald to consecutive sentences of 316 months for the
first-degree drug offense and 12 months and 1 day for fleeing
a peace officer (and to concurrent sentences for the other
offenses). Id. at *1-2. His convictions and
sentences were affirmed on direct appeal. Id. at
*9-10; ECF No. 11-8.
McDonald's direct appeal concluded, the Minnesota Drug
Sentencing Reform Act ("DSRA") took effect. 2016
Minn. Laws ch. 160. The DSRA increased the weight thresholds
for first-degree drug offenses and generally reduced the
sentencing guidelines for drug offenses. The Minnesota
Supreme Court held that the increased weight thresholds
applied only to crimes committed after the effective date of
the DSRA, State v. Otto, 899 N.W.2d 501 (Minn.
2017), but that the reduced sentencing guidelines applied to
convictions that were not final on the DSRA's effective
date, State v. Kirby, 899 N.W.2d 485 (Minn. 2017).
2017, McDonald filed a petition for postconviction relief in
state court. See ECF No. 11-9 at 6. The state trial
court granted his petition to the extent that he sought
resentencing on his first-degree drug offense under the
reduced guidelines, but denied his petition in all other
respects. ECF No. 11-9 at 35-45. The state trial court
resentenced McDonald to 250 months on the first-degree drug
offense. ECF No. 11-9 at 45. The Minnesota Court of Appeals
affirmed the trial court's decision, McDonald v.
State, No. A18-0064, 2018 WL 3614669 (Minn.Ct.App. July
30, 2018), and the Minnesota Supreme Court denied review,
McDonald v. State, No. A18-0064, Order (Minn. Oct.
then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28
U.S.C. § 2254, alleging six grounds for relief. ECF No.
1. In a report and recommendation ("R&R"),
Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung recommended denying
McDonald's petition and dismissing with prejudice all of
his claims. ECF No. 17. Judge Leung concluded that five of
McDonald's claims were procedurally barred and that his
sixth claim-an equal-protection challenge to his
matter is before the Court on McDonald's objection to the
R&R. The Court has conducted a de novo review.
See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b).
Based on that review, the Court overrules McDonald's
objection and adopts the R&R.
§ 2254 petition, McDonald claims that (1) his right to
equal protection was violated when the state trial court (a)
refused to apply the DSRA's increased weight thresholds
to his case and (b) resentenced him under a sentencing scheme
that discriminates on the basis of race; (2) his Sixth
Amendment right to present a complete defense was violated
when the trial court ruled that all of his past convictions
would be admissible to impeach him if he testified at trial;
(3) his right to due process was violated when the prosecutor
engaged in misconduct during the "Blakely
portion" of his sentencing proceeding; (4) his right to
a speedy trial was violated; (5) his right to due process was
violated when the State engaged in sentencing manipulation;
and (6) his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of
counsel was violated. See ECF No. 1.
Failure to Exhaust and Procedural Default
seeking a federal writ of habeas corpus, a state prisoner
must exhaust available state remedies, thereby giving the
State the opportunity to pass upon and correct alleged
violations of its prisoners' federal rights. To provide
the State with the necessary opportunity, the prisoner must
fairly present his claim in each appropriate state court
(including a state supreme court with powers of discretionary
review), thereby alerting that court to the federal nature of
the claim." Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 29
(2004) (cleaned up). A federal claim is "fairly
presented" if the petitioner refers to "'a
specific federal constitutional right, a particular
constitutional provision, a federal constitutional case, or a
state case raising a pertinent federal constitutional
issue' in a claim before the state courts."
McCall v. Benson, 114 F.3d 754, 757 (8th Cir. 1997)
(quoting Myre v. Iowa, 53 F.3d 199, 200-01 (8th Cir.
claim is not exhausted because it has not been fairly
presented to the state courts, that claim will be found
procedurally defaulted-i.e., the petitioner will be barred
from pursuing that claim in a § 2254 proceeding-if the
state courts would not "accord the petitioner a hearing
on the merits" of that claim because the petitioner has
not "complied with state procedural rules governing
post-conviction proceedings." McCall, 114 F.3d
at 757. "If state procedural rules prevent the
petitioner from obtaining such a hearing, then the petitioner
is also procedurally barred from obtaining habeas relief in a
federal court unless he can demonstrate either cause and
actual prejudice, or that a miscarriage of justice will occur
if [the court does] not review the merits of the
Speedy-Trial and Sentencing-Manipulation Claims
objects to Judge Leung's conclusion that McDonald's
speedy-trial and sentencing-manipulation claims are
unexhausted and procedurally defaulted.
direct appeal, McDonald was represented by counsel, but the
Minnesota Court of Appeals allowed McDonald to file a
supplemental pro se brief. In that pro se brief, McDonald
raised his speedy-trial and sentencing-manipulation claims.
ECF No. 13-1 at 10-14, 15-21. The Minnesota Court of ...